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France bans conversion therapy: Sets two-year jail term and $34,000 fine as penalties

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Photo by Sarah Meyssonnier / Reuters
Photo by Sarah Meyssonnier / Reuters

The French National Assembly banned conversion therapy on January 25. The new law not only forbids the practice but establishes criminal and civil penalties for so-called therapists who claim to "cure" homosexuality or gender nonconformity.

Conversion therapists are now liable to prison terms of up to two years and fines of 30,000 euros ($34,000). The punishment can increase to three years imprisonment and fines of 45,000 euros ($50,000) for cases involving minors or other particularly vulnerable people.

The law also allows victims of conversion therapy to file civil suits seeking monetary damages, and authorizes activists to file suit on behalf of victims in order to protect people who are unable or unwilling to report the abusive practice to police.

The legislation was proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron's governing party and was approved unanimously in a 142-0 vote. Opposition parties abstained from the vote so as not to oppose the measure while not supporting Macron.

"Conversion therapies are deplorable," French Health Minister Olivier Veran said. "They cause terrible suffering."

Veran tweeted with the hashtag "RienÀGuérir," which translates as "Nothing to Cure" and is used online by backers of the proposed legislation.

Photo by Sarah Meyssonnier / Reuters  

French National Assembly member Laurence Vanceunebrock, who helped steer the law's passage through Parliament, said it will target "all those who equated an identity or a sexual orientation with sickness."

"There is nothing to cure," she told the National Assembly, repeating the Health Minister's hashtag.

The law will take effect 14 days after Macron signs it, which he is expected to do quickly. He hailed the law on Twitter, saying, "Let's be proud of it. Because being oneself is not a crime."

Conversion therapy has been banned in Washington state since 2018. In August last year a federal court ruled that the ban was constitutional because it regulates professional conduct and does not violate First Amendment free speech rights.

The City of Seattle also has an ordinance banned conversion therapy within its city limits.

In 2015, the American Psychological Association and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration collaborated on a report stating "conversion therapy — efforts to change an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression — is a practice that is not supported by credible evidence and has been disavowed by behavioral health experts and associations.

"Conversion therapy perpetuates outdated views of gender roles and identities as well as the negative stereotype that being a sexual or gender minority or identifying as LGBTQ is an abnormal aspect of human development. Most importantly, it may put young people at risk of serious harm."